An Andean Partnership

Today was the groups first experience with the Huilloc Community. We could not have been more blessed to be welcomed into such a loving and trusting community. As we entered the small village 2,000 ft above the town of Ollantaytambo, we were greeted by all of the Huilloc people, necklaces of blessed flowers, a conch shell musical performance, and a shaman offering ceremony to Pachamamma (Mother Earth).

With twelve years of previous interaction with the Huilloc people, the Peruvian Medical Experience program has established strong, trusting relationships with this community. The village officials repeatedly emphasized that we would be welcomed and accepted as members of their communal family and should feel at home in their space. To further this relationship, members of our team, doctors, dentists, translators, and students, met with the officials to discuss the impact of our program and what more we could offer to them in the future.

With the goal of understanding the people’s needs, the meeting seemed to be a huge success. First of all, the elder’s continually expressed their gratitude for this group’s years of service. More importantly, they expressed that there were apparent needs in the community and trusted us enough to ask for help. At the end of our meeting, there were a few main issues that the Elders hoped could be resolved. The first involved their current cooking situation. Their houses aren’t ventilated properly, and as a result, the stoves that they use cause many health problems. There are alternative options out there. We will just have to do our best to find the best possible option and hopefully we can facilitate change over the next few years. The next issue was the water. They have realized that there are many water borne illnesses that they contract from the river. They now use one specific well up in the mountains for drinking water, but even that isn’t the cleanest. Because they now use one source for drinking water, there is an opportunity to purify the well for the whole community. It also allows for a potentially opportunity to add fluoride in an effort to increase dental health. The next issue seemed to be the most important to the elders. There are only 30-40 outhouses for the 200 families in the Huilloc community. That was an issue not even on our radar, so we will look to come up with a sustainable solution. Lastly, the women expressed a desire to learn how to grow new crops. This would allow them to create a new market for themselves and begin to make more money for the community in addition to their textiles.

A few of us students had the privilege of looking into some of these issues (specifically the cooking and bathroom situation). Both are absolutely in need of change, and it was an extremely humbling experience to see a family live in such a way. We really hope to make a difference in this community.

Once we wrapped up our meetings and clinic set up, a large portion of our group decided to take a hike. Overall, it took a little over two hours. We had to fight the altitude on the way up, but it was absolutely worth it once we reached the top. John led the way and told us a little bit about the pre-Incan ruins at the top. The views were spectacular, but we were finally pushed along by a rainstorm. We were all soaked by the end, but luckily no new shamans were made.

We finished off the night with dinner and a church service in honor of Odon’s mom who passed away several years ago. It was a beautiful service, and it was an honor for all of us to be invited. We are definitely starting to feel apart of the family here in Peru.

Colten and Annika


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